What IS A Dojo? Feed

146. Join the Samurai Navy and See the World (recruiting 101)

When I started this blog years ago I promised to write about interesting, or intriguing, or strange things in Budo; things that hopefully make the reader cant their head to one side like a Pug and say, Huh?”  Things that make you stop and think for a second is my intent so here is today’s momentary descent into, “The Budo-verse”.

Back in the gym after two or three years of broken promises to myself and just pure outright laziness.  Promised my Head Hatamoto that we’d “do stuff” at the ‘doj and throw each other around so must get back into fighting trim.  Not all that easy at age 65 but it’s still there.  Just have to reach for it and do the work.

Worked out, had a “healthy breakfast” at the whole food shop inside the gym.  Pretty convenient and they had plenty of black coffee to boot with a go-cup.  My health club isn’t quite as nice as the old-world “Gentlemen’s Clubs” in London; you know, the ones where you do your workout, and then go to the lockers as your man-servant hands you a gin and tonic to cut the edge off those 1,000 sit-ups, and then you perambulate to the steam room as you waddle naked across the locker room, and the shower attendant hands you your fresh, hot, monogrammed towel and the green bar of English pine soap, while you admire your pumped, buffed, and waxed nakedness in the mirror.

No.  Not quite that nice but maybe one day …………..

So on the way into the office, the skies turned black with this weather front coming through with massive rain and spectacular lightening shows. Satellite radio went into a “fem-ale” mode with song after song (by Toni Braxton, Anita Baker, Norah Jones, Tina Turner ……. Old School kind of tunes) so it was a smooth drive in with ‘tunes, nice weather, hot coffee, and good traffic for a change.  Stress-less, not stress-free but close so the mind drifted into thinking about conversations I had heard around me that morning at the gym about people always wanting something from you and pushy salesmen (apparently this is a week for carnival barkers) and I remembered several occasions at the dojo where someone, ostensibly looking at training, actually wanted something other than Budo.  They wanted things but used “visiting the dojo” as the wedge to get into the door and to try to put me at ease for the “close”.

I sometimes think that the world outside the Budo-bubble or the Bushi-verse looks at a dojo as a means of recruitment for whatever they are hawking, selling, thinking, doing, or hallucinating about.  And sometime they can be pushy so a Sensei, who has the best interests of his deshi at heart (and who is concerned about the viability of the dojo as being a “way place of learning” and not just another pit stop on the road to mediocrity) has to be direct, sometimes to the point of rudeness and everyone once in a great while, threatening to do some serious bodily harm if they can’t figure out that they are simply not wanted.

Bwahahaha.  I’ve been an insurance broker and agent for about 20 years now and got my start as a professional telemarketer after I left commercial banking.  Even when I was in banking before going into insurance full-time back in ’97, the big corporate banking centers I worked at actually put us through classes in how to sell and close, to how profile the prospect, and how to gauge, evaluate and control different personality types either as a loan officer, a risk management officer or as a problem loan & liquidation officer (I was all three at times). 

I’m the last person in the world you want to try to manipulate for a sale of anything and everyone once in a while, I’ll just screw with them, just because ………………. “Sure, I’m interested.  Tell me more.  Tell me more.  But what if …… tell me more ………. But would you want your mother to do that?” ….. but, who developed this and did they make any money?” ….. Have fun with it and interrupt their sales script, which throws them off.  Then you get to watch them try to recover so you hit them again.

So …………….. the occasions that popped into my mind during the drive in that were the most unusual and that had the best set-up as in the carnival barker coming in, talking martial arts and then slowly and gently trying to slip the ‘shiv in were …………..

Fellow sends an email asking if he can visit and the email says that he lives and trains in another martial art here in Houston; but that a good friend of his, an Aikido Sensei from Europe is in town and wants to visit several dojo to see what Aikido in the US and Texas is like.  So I say sure, come in Saturday.  They both come in, sit and visit, ask questions about Tomiki Aikido and I explain how Tomiki set it up, how the curriculum works and mention that Tomiki Ryu has strong self-defense focus and a heavy flavor of Kodokan Judo with how we work the off-balance on the attacker and enter for the technique.  This was all information that I already knew the European Sensei didn’t know as he had never seen Tomiki Ryu before.

So during the conversation, the fellow that had sent the original email made mention (after I had to ask several times) finally ‘fessed up that he did another martial art that consisted of punching and kicking and some throws of various types and that he had students and was building a dojo here in Houston.  My thought was …. hmmm but I said nothing.  Then he asked if he could train.  I said no, that I don’t take visitors and that only active students could get on the mat, not visitors, not people who weren’t already Aikido Players, and esp. not visitors from other styles who would be there only that class period.  His response was, “Oh, a cynic”.  Strange I thought, but knew immediately that he wanted to try his art against Aikido; something I had no interest in.  Last time someone talked that game I told them that I’d ask one of the police officers in the class to come over and convince them of the error of their ways.  Then as a test, I turned to the Aikido Sensei from Europe and asked him a simple question; to wit, can you see the Daito Ryu, self-defense, Judo influences. He got a sorta’ funny look on his face and said, “YES. I can really see the Judo influence”. I couldn’t tell if he was surprised at the techniques or what.

So, while they were both pretty courteous and not rude and not outright challenging, I interpreted it as checking out the competition by using the European as the excuse.  Then, the very next day, I received an email from the visitor that he had emailed my senior Hatamoto to visit his dojo; an effort at recruitment as I interpreted it.  So the entire email, visit, conversation was, bottom line, an effort at recruitment as I had several people who had experience in what he was teaching and he must have thought that he could interest them in visiting/joining his school.  No biggie to me.  I only want deshi that are interested in our program anyway.

The strangest attempt at recruitment however was the night a stranger walked in unbidden with no advance notice.  He had a strange aura about him and seemed a little distant but curious.  We talked and he said that he did some martial arts informally (my first thought was “Oh Gawd. Another guy working out with his brother-in-law in the garage by reading books and watching You Tube”).  It turned out that he was claiming to be one of the few individuals in the country who knew “Viking Martial Arts”. 

Bwahaha.  Hokay then.  Thor’s Hammer Ryu.  This must be a joke.  Nope.  Not a joke.  So after prodding him as to what he was looking for he stated that he wanted to learn Aikido and grappling to improve his Thor Ryu.  Then I made the error of asking him what he did for a living.

And for the first time I about fell off my stool.  He ran a sex-club where everyone traded spouses and they had bondage rooms where the audience watched and had martini’s and bacon wrapped shrimp as someone was tied up and …… er …… ah ….. “abused substantially” as the cameras rolled.  So after sagely remaining silent for a minute or two, I just had to ask.  “So.  Thor.  How do you find clients? customers? mattress divers? WTH do you call them?”  He didn’t think that was very funny but interesting enough, his expression never really changed so that told me that he’d done this before.  His response was, “We have to be discreet.  We just offer that we do this and then allow people to approach us and join. We love to have visitors to the club to see what we offer”.

Didn’t take too long to figure out that I was being invited over and by extension, the entire dojo.  Well I thought, nothing like trying to join a martial arts dojo with 50 or 60 people who are physically active and in good shape so-as to have a fresh batch of recruits because he was overweight and didn’t look to me like much of catch for a discerning female with life choices available to her.

So he left and the next morning I went on line and looked up his sex club.  Sure enough.  There it was, less than a couple miles away from the dojo in the back of an unmarked strip center and Google Earth showed blacked out windows with no sign, only the suite number.  His photo was there on the website along with a bunch of other people and the site had photos of the “mattress room” (wall to wall), the bar (lots of interestingly clothed & unclothed bartenders in the photo, "Ah ... say there partner .... what are you stirring my drink with?"), the bondage room (no people in this one but the ladder, handcuffs and pole in the middle of the room with chains were included).  And, lo’ and behold, a group photo of people at the beach at Galveston, wearing Viking clothes and horned (horny?) helmets and carrying wooden shields and swords at what was noted as being a “Viking Wedding”.

So, if you run a dojo, then keep some things in mind. 

At some point, at some time, and one day, you very likely will find yourself dealing with these people.  Keep in mind that these are the extreme examples.  Door to door protein or internet ISP salesmen are a dime a dozen.  These were the ones that were good at what they do.  They are the ones that you have to watch for.  Don’t let them in no matter how badly you need new deshi.  Lying down with snakes never has a good result and if you feel guilty somehow about saying no, then remember the story about the frog and the scorpion.  Otherwise, you may lookup and find deshi quitting the dojo because they came to learn martial arts from you, not be recruited by Thor the Viking Sex ‘Perv. 

L.F. Wilkinson Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

March 2017

55. Self-Imposed Limitations

So far this year I've been writing on the idea of a "pedestrian" being a lower life form than a "human".  Sounds a bit weird doesn't it and now you wonder how this applies to a dojo and to teaching Aikido as a high level Sensei.

So alright grasshopper...........think about this.

You're running a dojo and you are solely responsible for not only the safety and learning progression of 40 or 50 Aikido players but you also have a substantial and very personal financial stake in the dojo's success. 

50 people literally trust you with their safety and if anything goes haywire it's your fault, and here come the lawyers. 

You're into a 5 year commercial lease for $120,000.  Liability and property insurance for those 5 years at a cost of $12,500.  Utilities for an approx. $12,000 and advertising for approx. $6,000. 

So, in order to run your shop for 5 years you are looking at a personal & business obligation of $150,000.  That would make a nice nest egg for your retirement if you had it in an IRA.

So now you're running classes one night and in walks a guy literally with hair coiled into braided dreadlocks that hang down past his waist.  Into the hair is woven beads and brass bells and he "tinkles" when he walks.  You can't initially figure out whether he took a wrong turn at Pasaic, NY and is still looking for Woodstock or is a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, a Hindu or a Rastafarian who misses Haile.  Plus, he's got enough "tats" to start a coffee table photo book and to beat that, he's wearing a skirt that goes to his ankles.

Your first thought is something on the order of, "Hmm!  Shoman-ate or just foot sweep him and then see how many times I can choke him out before he cries 'Dalai Lama'."  Your second thought is, "How many waza out of San Kata can I do by grabbing only his hair?"

But surprise............he turns out to be a reasonably nice guy with a good attitude who might have the desire to learn since he's just an old hippie at heart who still likes the Haight Ashbury life style; laid back and really mellow-like, "Ya, bra....... where' the waves dude......man, like I scored some really good Dr. Zog's Sex Wax for my board...".

To make this story short(er) after some discussion we came to two conclusions; first, he wasn't cutting his hair and second, I wasn't letting him on the mat with it still there.  Why you ask?  His hair had metal and beads in it and could easily, even if up in a ponytail flip into someone's eyes and cause some seriously bad mojo; not to mention the possible cuts on someones hands or face, or the beads falling out and someone cutting their feet and bleeding all over my canvas mat.

Additionally and most disconcerting is the possibility that during a throw his hair could get caught or wrapped around something and his body weight could literally break his neck as he rolled/fell down (but his hair didn't).  For you history buffs, this was how the hangman in the cowboy movies did in the bad guy at his execution.  The hangman's noose did not choke the prisoner to death (unless the hangman was really perverse and wanted to make the prisoner suffer a long and painful death doing the "rope dance").  The rope was placed around the neck in such a fashion as to twist the head as the body fell through the trap door and the falling body weight snapped the spine, thus causing instant and relatively painless death.  His long dreadlocks could possibly do the same and that would be REALLY bad mojo.

So the whole gist of this year-long series of brain-poots that I generally do when I get to the office and am cringing at that thought of getting on the phone to clients while I am drinking my coffee is this............do you limit yourself and if so, how?  And, are you observant enough to look at others and tell whether they are, or are not, also limiting their life choices?  And, is there something you can recommend to them (in a reasonable and non-obtrusive manner) that would enable them to move ahead and not stay behind; so-to-speak?

Are you running a dojo, a true "place of the way" or just another social club at the YMCA where everyone is afraid to speak for fear of "offending" someone? 

What is a Sensei; really?  One who is "born before" or someone sitting in that chair in the corner and barking?


Here was a guy with a pretty good attitude and personality who expressed interest in learning Aikido but who couldn't bring himself to cut his hair short enough to get onto the mat and train.

How self-limiting is it, to sacrifice a possibly life-changing activity that could be really fun to boot, because you have decided that you like being in people's faces while you fly your "Freak-Flag" (which is what we children of the 1960's used to call really, really long hair.....the phrase being used in a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song titled of all things. "Almost Cut My Hair".................    :-O     ........).

Shrinks postulate and theorize that by wearing a bunch of "tat's" or tatoos on your body (more than one or two tasteful ones but just a whole passel or a big bunch of them) and hair that is literally about 40 or 50 years out of date with the rest of society (or that would be more appropriate on a Yogi in Calcutta) the person is trying to establish an identity for themselves, almost as if they know not who they are...........it's an attempt to set themselves apart from the crowd and prove that they are different (how ironic to prove that you a different person and an individual by becoming just one more part of a sub-culture in which everyone is different, but the same....   :-(    ....).

I told the guy that I also was a child of the hippie generation and that I too, once had hair down to my shoulders and that when I went to work I tucked it up under my cowboy hat.  (I wasn't the only kid on the ranch who did that and boy did the cow-boss hate it when he saw it!  One kid had his father sit on his chest and shave his head; he was so embarrassed at what his boy was doing!)

I also told him that I literally didn't care how he wore his head or dread'ed his hair or wore his dress outside the dojo, but that we had a lot to offer the prospective Aikido player IF he agreed to come into a new paradigmatic view of the world that I guess you could refer to as "Budo-Land" where the rules of engagement are specific and are there for very rational reasons.

Such a waste.

So next time you make a decision about your future are you acting like a pedestrian, making short-view choices that limit your potential 20 years from now or, are you a full-bore human, making small sacrifices today for great benefit tommorrow?

Once you look at yourself in this light, take a look at the prospective Aikido players that come into your dojo to be interviewed for acceptance and see if you can see the limiting behavior.  Remember; you're got a lease to pay and 40 or 50 Aikido players that trust you to teach them more than their money's worth and that one of them may someday be your replacement at the dojo and may even become your child's Sensei some day when you're gone.

See why the long-view is so critical and why a forward-looking progressive attitude (acting human) is so preferable to taking the short, selfish choices (acting pedestrian)?

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho]
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
September 2009

54. Last Post on This Title (Although the Overall Topic Lives On)

"I fear the silence because it brings the truth".  Song lyric by Pink.

I once knew a woman who couldn't stand silence.  You'd go to her apartment and every room would have either the multiple TVs on and tuned to the same channel or the multiple radios on and tuned to the same station.  When asked why, her response was, "I need the company".  This of course caused me, and many others, to cock our head to one side, scratch our ear and say, "HUH?".

If you have a poor self image then of course you can't stand the silence or being alone for any given length of time because it eventually results in your mind taking over (your subconsious that is) and thoughts begin to arise unbidden.  These can be on something that went right or wrong and could have happened yesterday or in our childhood.  For those with low self-esteem, they more usually are on what went wrong and are unpleasant and this neurotic dwelling on past, unpleasant events will retard if not stop any possible progress in our Aikido career.

Shrinks tell us that reliving and dealing with our "dark" side is the only way in which to reconcile ourselves to it and thereby move forward into a more positive and progressive life, with the failure to do so naturally holding us back in the "darkness".

Pedestrians live in darkness and humans live in the light since they are more willing to "deal with it".  Pedestrians do not like living in the dark (unless they're REALLY messed up) but cannot come out of it due to fear of what might happen and what emotions may arise.  As my parents and grandparents used to say, "Quit whining and just deal with it and be an adult.  What's past is past and if you fouled up just be careful to not do it again and if someone took advantage of you then get away from them and don't be so gullible next time".  I always thought that advice was very succinct and to the point and a motto to live by.

So lets end this search for "Being Human" as a series of "same title" posts and instead take a broader approach.  (It was getting too difficult to do that anyway as a blog is supposed to be a little less structured.)

Humans look forward, have long term goals and are willing to look inward and improve who they are.  Pedestrians do not and are totally satisfied to remain exactly as they are since it's "safer".  But as a guide for moving forward then consider what we have looked at since Christmas;

"He's mad that trusts in the lameness of a wolf, a horse's health, a boy's love or a whores' oath."

"Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little to no influence on society."

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

"He who does not punish evil commands it to be done."

"You gotta go there to come back."

"I fear the silence because it brings the truth."

Consider it on your own and see whence it takes you.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
August 2009

52. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 8

"He who does not punish evil commands it to be done."  Leonardo DaVinci

I walked into the dojo and glanced across the tatami at a clump of women on the other side talking and whispering.  When they saw me the highest ranked female of the group suddenly got this guilty look on her face and the others looked scared and scattered like so many quail flushed by a bird dog before the 12 gauges open up and the hunters start smiling.

Thinking nothing of it I was later approached by one of the senior black belts who said that Ms. So & So had caused a fissure in the coherence of the players by bossing around the other females, all of whom ranked under her in kyu appointment.  After hearing the information I immediately terminated that females position in the dojo and told her to not return ............. end of story and problem or so I thought.

Within two weeks not only did the black belt who had originally told me of the issues but a second black belt also came to me.  Both had the same tale of woe ...... "She's so sorry and she didn't mean it and she doesn't want to be thrown out of the dojo and she's so sorry and she won't do it again and she promises to apologize to everyone involved and she'll do better next time and she's calling me twice a day and begging me to beg you to allow to rejoin the dojo and train again and .... and ..... and ....."; well, you get the idea.

So I relented, figuring that since I had half my senior staff in agreement that maybe I had over-reacted too quickly and that my intuition was wrong and that I was being overly judgmental and just too critical.

So, within 45 days from when I let her back on the tatami we were right back at the same juxtaposition once again except now it was worse.  This female was telling the other women in the dojo that she was the head "B" in charge and that she was #2 in the dojo and that she was sleeping with the senior black belts and that the other women had to do what she told them to do or she would have them ejected from the dojo.

She was sh-----canned immediately and then I had a conversation with the black belts about what had happened and the fact that they had allowed themselves to be duped by a crafty, devious and essentially evil person.  Looking back on it now after almost 10 years she would have been classified as having Narcisstic Personality Disorder and being a borderline psychopath.

When your intuition tells you something is wrong (or when you are presented face-to-face with clear evidence of wrong doing) and you finally figure out that something needs to be done, MAKE A DECISION AND STICK TO IT AND DON'T LOOK BACK UNLESS CONFRONTED WITH CONTRADICTORY EVIDENCE SO OVERWHELMING THAT IT SIMPLY CANNOT BE DENIED AND YOU ARE CLEARLY, CLEARLY IN THE WRONG.

Although I am normally pretty easy going and grew up with the same sets of insecurities and longing for acceptance/friends/popularity as everyone else in grade school, that set of circumstances that occured to me shortly after I opened the dojo over 10 years ago (my first on my own without working under another Sensei) was a good teaching lesson for me that taught me a lot about being proactive.  I now try my best to pass that idea on to my senior grades.

When confronted with evil BE judgemental, MAKE that hard decision, BE a "not very nice person", GO against the "politically correct" guidelines because if you don't; evil wins and what you are fighting to build will be destroyed and Budo will be lost.  You will end up with "garbage people" in your life and on your mat and as my grandmother used to teach, "If you play with sh-- then you're going to get some on you".

People won't make the hard decision either because they're afraid of what others might think of them,  "Well, you're just being judgemental and mean-spirited", or they have no self-confidence in their own ability to tell right from wrong and to act on that knowledge.  Worst yet, "people" or "pedestrians" won't even take the initiative to educate themselves and learn, preferring to sit in front of the plasma with their game-boy in hand and turn their brain into something resembling (use your imagination here).

Humans, especially those Humans who have responsibilities to themselves, their families, their jobs, their dojo and students, etc., WILL make the effort to learn and WILL make the hard choice and WILL live with the consequences if they make a mistake.

Ueshiba (and others) said that mistakes are the best teacher and that each mistake teaches us something of value and a dojo is a great place to learn this since in many, many regards it is a microcosm of the universe..

So step out there and make the decision; be a Human and not "couch-sushi".

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
May 2009

51. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 7

"The unexamined life is not worth living."    Socrates

Lets sum up where we are in our search for Humans.

First, knowledge of self or who we are and how we got here is critical both for improving our own self image, understanding our actions, reactions, provocations and responses and then using that knowledge of self to gain a better understanding of others and why they are who they are, all of which lifts us out of the rut of just being a drone and enables us to better communicate with others, most especially our students,

Second, how we present ourselves to others has impact on their opinion of us and by extension, our opinion of ourselves; after all, if others view us as ignoble slobs who dress like a chimney sweep on a windy day, then we likely will not have a high opinion of ourselves either, our self-image being dependent upon how others act towards and treat us.  Once we understand US, then we should use our new understanding of image and presentation to gauge how others (including our students) view themselves as portrayed by their public presentations (do they have elegance or view/dress like they have zero self-respect with that lack of self-respect translating to lack of respect for others)?

Socrates' quote is pretty indicative of much of his life philosophy and teachings and should become a part of who you are if you are to excel in life and in Aikido and as a Sensei.  Oh, and just because you do not run your own dojo does not mean that you, as a senior Yudansha in whatever dojo you train at, are not a Sensei if not an actual exemplar.

The kohai look up to you so if you have no self-respect, present a slovenly image and allow your internal insecurities to flow across the tatami like a garden hose left on high in the front yard then guess what; they will parrot your low-class, pedestrian example and will become less than the Budoka that you claim you want to portray.  In a very real sense they will become (the lesser and pedestrian) you; instead of surpassing you as all parents should desire for their child and all Sensei should desire for their students.

A life lived shallowly and only on the surface with no recognition of what is underlying (much less any degree of understanding that could actually lead to ...... gasp! ...... CHANGE FOR THE BETTER) is exactly how the vast majority of people (pedestrians again) live for their entire lives.

Socrates was right.  Each of us has a responsibility for examining his/her own life and heeding that higher call to look deeply at ourselves such as;

  • What are our motivations?
  • What are our fears and are any of them even rational?
  • Can we tell the difference between right and wrong and how do we make the decision of when to be judgemental (in making that determination of right vs. wrong) and how do we act upon it?
  • What makes any individual special?
  • What are our personal core values and do we follow them in our actions with ourselves and towards others, or do we talk a good game but never follow the game plan?
  • What mistruths and logical fallacies have we had programmed into us by others (our family of origin for example) and of those which have value, and which should be discarded as fast as we can walk to the trash can to pitch them in?
  • How do we determine what about us needs to be changed, or left as is?

It is my firm opinion that none of us will ever complete this task but that we should attempt it nonetheless.  To do otherwise (to not make that painful effort) menas that not only are we not human but that we do not need to be a Sensei or an exemplar and lead others into a live lacking introspection and personal growth.

A very old, very country but very real phrase and one that my prime Sensei used many times was, "A pigs' eyes weren't made to gaze upon the stars".  How true (unfortunately) for only a larger view, accompanied by a serious life-long effort to look at and understand the stars will enable us to become more than we are and one must become dis-satisfied with our current lot in life before we can begin to lift our gaze.

Here's a book you may find helpful; it did me.

The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations  by Robert Nozick

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas
April 2009

50. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 6a

Yes; I'm cheating by putting 6a but since the office looks like an Alaskan "White-Out" during a seal hunt I thought I'd put this up, catch your attention and come back later today or the next and address it .................

As we mature, grow older, gain seasoning (life seasoning, not Emeril-like) AND understand ourselves better (there's that self-awareness thing again) we should consider that Aikido can become a means by which we fill the hole in our soul and find purpose.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas
April 2009

49. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 6

"Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society."  Mark Twain

Now that we've beaten the dead horse of self-awareness several times, we should have at least a glimmer of why understanding ourselves will help us understand and communicate better with others; including other Aikido players who may or may not be a good "fit" for your dojo and are safe on the mat (as in not abusing other players).

It can be tough but if you as Sensei judge someone to be "not worthy" then take a stand, make a decision and be judgmental as you kick them to the curb.  Understanding you and your motivations allows you to make a better judgment call since that understanding will allow you to evaluate their motivations more readily than is possible were you to be wrapped up in your own issues, and unable to see past the trauma sitting on the end of your own nose.

Mark Twain's quote is interesting and I was fairly old before I knew where it came from since my parents drilled it into my skull from when I was wearing diapers.  (I'm old enough to have actually worn diapers, the cloth kind that mom had to wash by hand and boil because Pampers hadn't been invented yet).  Becoming human and refusing to remain a pedestrian encompasses a much broader swath of the universe than just undergoing self-imposed psycho-analysis.

"Clothes make the man" ...... ????? .... Hmmmmm.

Science has proven that when you meet someone for the very first time it takes no longer than 30 seconds for you to form your permanent impression of them (and them of you); a snap judgement that they'll have to really go to some effort over time to change.

30 seconds (some studies say it's actually less than 10 seconds).  That's pretty quick but it likely stems from our cave man days when you topped the ravine and met Mr. Ugh for the first time.  Was he there to kill you, steal your woman and make your baby his personal valet, or was he just looking for his lost rock.  Since it was truly Darwinian times and only, ONLY, the strong, tough, mean and devious survived and you couldn't sit down to break bread before judging him (there was no bread for one thing, only fruits, nuts and raw meat).  In response, mankind's evolution created this snap decision process in our subconscious minds that allowed those who had it and could use it to survive.  YOU are their descendant which means you have it too and you use it daily whether you realize it, or not.

Back to Mark Twain.  I read an article in the newspaper this week that says it all and also shows one big difference between a pedestrian and a human.

Humans rise above the rest of the pack and strive to be the Alpha dog regardless of whether the pack that stays behind resents it or not.  Unlike the Beta dogs (the pedestrians) the human has a goal, a larger view or a longer term view that makes them dissatisfied with their current lot in life.  Part of this rising above is ........ ta da ....... dressing better in all facets of life.  Remember another old saying, "If you want to be the President then dress like the President and not the yard boy."

The article said that due to being PC ("politically correct") then denim (blue jeans) has become the means by which people "downgrade" their appearance.  This doesn't mean that blue jeans cannot be "dressy".  They certainly can be if done correctly as part of a larger couture idea, but when it becomes a matter of jeans being acid stressed with holes cut into them on purpose, baggy, dirty, not washed or pressed or in a word, "slovenly"; then the wearer is making a deliberate attempt (subconscious or no) to follow the premise of "thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly.  To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism - of believing that appearance matters."  (the little "...." indicates a direct quote from the newspaper article)

Huh ....... what about that first 30 second snap judgement of that person met for the first time??????  No matter, lets go on.

"That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste."

WHAT THE HELL!  There IS good and bad taste and we use that first 30 seconds to decide whether that guy we just met has one or the other and by that determine whether we intend to be his friend, co-worker, drinking buddy, or uke that we give our body to for practice.

Grrrr .............. let us not digress into vehement criticism of pedestrian thought processes no matter how entertaining or intelligent or elegant/sophisticated they may not be.......

"Denim (or just badly fitted and cared for clothes period) is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances.  But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves."

Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU for stating why we should choose to become human and elevate ourselves above the pedestrians and the crabs down in the crab pot who are merrily boiling away and trying to pull us back down to their base level as we scramble to escape to a better quality of existence.

OK Sensei and all you Sensei to be; take this and apply it to people you know on the job and in the dojo and start to link how people care for their personal appearance with how they act at work or on the mat.

Then go buy some better clothes for yourself and see if they are tailored correctly and while you're at it get yourself some really good French cologne to top it off and gain a little "elegance" for yourself.  Japanese sometimes think Americans smell like spoiled milk because of all the cheese products in our diets so let us prove them to be mistaken.

Ciao (I forgot the Japanese for "Later Dude")

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
April 2009

48. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 5

"He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health, a boy's love, or a whore's oath."

The Fool from King Lear

By this time I'm assuming that you've at least considered beginning a very personal study of what makes you tick.  Along with that first book, I also recommend a second.  Both of these books are entry level and the second is regarded as a "pop icon" but if they begin to spur your interest then I've succeeded in making you take a step back and think about not only who you are, but in recognizing a little of yourself in others and becoming an observer of others' behaviors, thinking about who they really are (beneath the surface of the public mask that we wear to hide our "true selves); a talent that can be learned and developed and one that is critical to successfully running a high level dojo.  Here are the books again and then on with King Lear ("...cry havoc and loose the dogs of war....")

Born To Win: Transactional Analysis With Gestalt Experiments by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward

I'm OK - You're OK by Dr. Thomas Harris

OK Sensei; so why the Shakespeare this morning?  Are you bored or what? 

No, just frustrated at work issues so I'd thought I'd continue the current stream of unconsciousness.

In dealing with clients in my insurance practice I have to rely on intuition in understanding truth from lie.  As a field underwriter, I have to submit only the truth to the Underwriters for final policy pricing and binding.  Knowing or sensing when someone is being misleading or just telling an outright lie enables me to change the direction of the information gathering interview process and modify the questions so as to not embarrass or flat accuse the prospect/client but instead to "corner" them and dig out the truth.

Before I became an insurance agent this skill was really critical when I was in commercial banking as a problem loan workout officer.  I was managing a loan portfolio over $500 million in size for the RTC during the S&L crisis in the mid-80's and knowing truth from lie was more than a little important in re-negotiating credit facilities and deciding when to execute on the guaranty agreements.

Also important to understanding how to use this talent is ..... knowing yourself.....!  You cannot effectively negotiate or understand the opponents/opposition/borrower rep/Aikido player unless you understand yourself so that you do not project your insecurities onto the person that you are interfacing with.  Doing so interferes with effective interpersonal communications.

OK ......... so to sum up this installment pedestrians make snap judgements and over react to situations and project their internal issues onto the person they are talking with.

So do you think this may explain why talking to some people is like talking to a toilet?  It just repeats the same talking points and pretty soon you give up and walk away.  They are unable to see how what they say impacts you and cannot see your response nor adjust their comments to match you in finding the most effective means of communciations.

Humans slow down and step back and try to understand where you are coming from and why you are reacting the way that you are and this stepping back also allows them to make that determination of truth vs. non-truth. 

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
April 2009

47. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 4

We've been discussing (well actually I've been mono-blogging) about people vs. humans; a blog-o topic I thought about after reading the latest installments of Dune where some of the main characters talk about the differences between the two.

Thus far my prime point has been that the world is chock full of people (or pedestrians) who could improve their lives if they so chose but, due to the overall impact of live experiences choose not to.  This may be due to emotional trauma or hard wiring or current life circumstances or bad spousal relationships or controlling parental units or they are, as my great aunt used to say, "star crossed".  Whatever the reason, they simply do not make good martial artists and every aspect of their flaws and negative outlook on life spills all over the tatami and destroys what is supposed to be a positive experience for all.

My point is this; how can anyone be a good Sensei and give guidance to those who could benefit the most if the Sensei himself is so flawed that not only can they not give guidance and support to young up and coming players, they can't even understand why they fly off the handle or deal with their own life issues off the mat and bring that garbage onto the mat?

Understanding who you are as Sensei, recognized that you have flaws, those flaws based in your own life experiences and finding mature responses to deal with those flaws, will do two things; make you a better person and enable you to recognize those issues in others.  After dealing with "you" and understanding just "who you are" and "how you view and deal with life" you gain a new ability to recognize those issues in prospective students and after filtering out those who are truly fatally flawed and who simply cannot be helped, you can take those who have true potential and who WANT your help in developing their potential and guide them to a new understanding of their relationship to the universe.

Wow Wilkinson Sensei, that sounds really esoteric and wonderful.

No, not really and I'm not blowing smoke up my own hakama either.  I've just had some hard lessons that resulted from my not understanding "me".  I was so introverted that I failed to recognize the potential problem in others.  I was too "self-focused" to notice.  After many years of those hard lessons (in some cases the Sensei' that I trained under very directly telling me to "get a winch and pull your head out of your .....") I began to question myself which led to me reading books and seeking lay therapy and talking to other players who were older, wiser and more senior than I as part of a very serious effort to be calmer, more confident, less insecure and less immature and wiser in how I dealt with everyone around me.

As a result, I now do my best to be objective and observing and I hestitate before making a strong move so that I can be certain it is necessary; all of which comes from the self-awareness that as a very young man/teenager/young adult I was sometimes (only sometimes? ;-)....) impulsive and acted before I thought.

Like I said, understand who you are.  Go buy that book I mentioned in Part 1 of this series and get busy finding out who you are and view it as a growth experience.  Also, like I said before, keep it private and don't tell anyone that you are doing that.  If they know it will make your self-conscious and you will not be honest with yourself.

Don't worry ............ I've beaten this dead mule enough so we'll start looking at other ways to become "fully human" and a better Aikido player and Sensei.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

46. We Shihan Sift People to Find the Humans - Part 3

So there you are; sitting in your Big Sensei Chair (ya' gotta capitalize it, that chair is important, just like that cup of coffee and the banjo ...... :-O  ?) and in walks a potential new student.  The parent who brought them in is very energetic and interested and asks a ton of questions and says that Little Johnny or Little Janey have really been looking forward to training with you.  The child, maybe not a child, maybe a young adult, maybe someone in their 20's or 30's, looks, appears interested but says .......................... NOTHING!  As T. Williams put it, "Big Daadddy" speaks for mee".

OK Sensei, QUICK! ................ give me an estimate of the new students' personality and whether or not they'll be a fit for your dojo!

Wait a minute you say ............ that's not fair ............. I haven't even spoken to them yet so how can I give a fair and balanced estimation of their personality?

Duh!  Every sales motivational course in the world including Dale Carnegie and The Franklin Planner course (2 of the best known and most reputable) teaches what is well proven in all psychological studies; that is, whether we realize it or not we form an opinion about that person in the first 30 seconds we meet them.  So, give me an estimation of the new students' personality!

When I was younger, my father and grandfather both were very dynamic, forceful individuals and as a result, I sometimes felt browbeaten to the point to where in public I was told to be seen and not heard.  So when they weren't there I cut loose and became too loud and too concerned about being seen and heard.  Understanding myself and the influences from my family of origin that colored my growth, and the steps that I had to take to become my own person, allows me to gain a little more control and comprehension about snap judging other people, and it enables me to get control of my impulses and learn to be a lot more circumspect about how and when I step out to interact with other "humans" (I have a great distaste for dealing with "pedestrians" in case you haven't guessed by now).

Whether you or I like it (or not) is immaterial; that 30 second decision exists and has been proven time and time again.  So, do you want to do the 30 second decision subconsciously, not even realizing that you are doing it and running your dojo based on not understanding that it exists, or do you want to have a little more control over it, knowing that you can only acquire that knowing by studying yourself and understanding the emotions each situation brings forth in you, and then by doing so perhaps recognize a little of yourself in others which gives you a little more compassion and insight and a little more ability to manage your relationship them?

Just a thought for today so have you bought that book yet and gone thru' all the exercises yet?  Do you know why you yell at your kids and sound like your mother?  Do you have a little better feel for why you act and react and instigate and passively sit in defined circumstances or push your spouses' buttons?  Are you ready to be a high level player or Sensei but not willing to become a student of other people by becoming a student of yourself?

My 30 second snap judgement; the parent is a massive control freak who just brought their 30 year "child" to the dojo because dad thinks it's a good idea.  The 30 year old is divorced with children so they possibly got divorced because they married someone like their father or mother who exerted control until they got fed up and walked out.  The 30 year old, once amputated from their control freak parental unit, will go one of two ways on the tatami once they get to Yudansha (maybe sooner) and that infamous psychosis known as "Shodan-itis" kicks in.

The first possibility is for them to become their parental unit and control and dominate other younger players.  They will end up being thrown out of the dojo should they not be able to grow out of this programming from the family of origin because their negativity casts such a large shadow across your mat and could cost you good students.

The second possibility is that give sufficient positive reinforcement and encouragement as part of normal mat discipline, they grow out of that submissive, childish role and become a good player who encourages other younger players to also grow and mature.  The dojo, and you, saved them from a life of becoming their parent and never growing into their full potential which after all, is SUPPPOSED to be what Budo, and by extension Aikido, is all about.  Right?

Understanding "You" helps you understand "Them" such that you can guide them and offer them the right encouraging comment at the right time in the right way so that you spur them on.  Understanding "You" allows you to take off the blinders and either decide to NOT take that prospective student (because you get a little itch in the back of your skull that says, "Watch out, there's something not quite kosher here", or that itch says, "Yes, they likely have some issues but they really want to learn and I think that they'll be well worth my time and effort to help them become a really good Aikido player".

Go buy the book and figure this one out for yourself.  Later on in this series, we'll discuss the idea of being a self-starter.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
April 2009